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Holy Week


Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, 


This Sunday begins Holy Week, as we walk with Jesus from his entry into Jerusalem as we wave our palm branches to the devastating betrayal of Good Friday, through the silence of Holy Saturday, and to the joy of the Empty Tomb on Easter.  Holy Week invites us to slow down, and experience the events almost in “real time” along with Jesus and his followers.  The services we offer (listed below in the Window and in the back of Sunday’s bulletins) highlight the themes of this journey to the Cross and the Resurrection news of Easter.  I hope you will join in as you are able. 


Tuesday offers an innovative Stations of the Cross experience through the eyes of some of the women in the Bible who encountered Jesus.  Wednesday’s Tenebrae service explores the play of light and shadows in psalms, Scripture, and the persistence of the Light we know in Christ.  Thursday we join Jesus and the disciples in the Maundy Thursday rituals of Eucharist and foot washing (for those who wish to partake of this optional practice).  This year, at the request of our Sacristan and some of you, your priests will do the washing and drying, to simplify this ritual for our Altar Guild and to highlight that we are here to serve you.  On Good Friday, at both noon and 7 pm we will hear the Passion according to John, read at noon and chanted at 7 pm.  


We will be using a recommended “Proposed Alternative Good Friday Liturgy” this year.  This liturgy differs subtly from what we are used to hearing and seeks to repair in some small ways the long history of anti-Judaism in the way Good Friday has been celebrated and interpreted.   There are extensive endnotes in the Good Friday bulletins you will receive, but I wanted to give you the background here so you might better understand and anticipate the events of Good Friday as we will share them next week. 


In his new book “A Sacred Argument: Dispatches from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Encounter,” Dr. Chris Leighton reminds us that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death were written at a time when the early Church was subject to tremendous political pressures, which resulted in “a negative portrait of the Jews while offering a relatively sanguine image of the actual power brokers, the Roman occupiers.”  Leighton refers here to the sympathetic portrayal of Pilate as “an indecisive and magnanimous arbiter of Roman justice” when in fact “his gruesome displays of Crucifixion designed to  intimidate the masses were conducted with such brutality that his Roman superiors ultimately relieved him of his position.”  Leighton continues “To redirect the watchful eye of Rome away from the early Church, the Gospel writers made two decisive adjustments.  First they insisted that the kingdom of God transcended the power politics of Rome. (Jesus says “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world;” John 18:36). Second they whitewashed Roman culpability for Jesus’ execution and thrust Jews–already perceived as rebellious subjects–into the spotlight …. what began as a politically expedient tactic of survival was read by subsequent generations of Christians as a faithful and accurate account of a malicious Jewish disposition.”(1)   And one need only read the history of violence against Jewish believers up to and including our current day, to know that this perspective has had devastating consequences for Jews and Christians too. 


While our liturgy at Trinity Concord in 2024 cannot repair centuries of hatred and violence, it can open our eyes and ears and hearts to this history, as we seek to better understand our faith and its relationship to those who have come before us.  The alternative Good Friday liturgy provides three important things with respect to these matters: 


  1. A translation of the Passion from the Gospel of John that does not uniformly render the Greek hoi Iudaioi as “the Jews.” Traditionally, the repetition of “the Jews” has given rise to anti-Jewish language and violence, marking Good Friday as a historically dangerous time for Jewish communities living in Christian contexts. The provided translation offers other options for this word, especially “the Judeans.” This word highlights the regional tensions between Jesus of Nazareth from the Galilee and Judean leadership centered in Jerusalem. 

  2. An epistle reading from Ephesians that offers alternative perspectives on the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ. The traditional first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews frames the death of Jesus as the final sacrifice offered to God. Jesus Christ becomes both the sacrifice and the high priest offering the sacrifice. The alternative reading from the Letter to the Ephesians situates the death of Jesus Christ within a larger arc of salvation history. God the Father chose his Son before creation to be for humans the means by which they attain redemption as children of God. This happens through the death of Jesus Christ, which secures the forgiveness of sins. 

  3. A  new collect (prayer) for the Jewish people. Historically, the church prayed on Good Friday that Jews, who had been blamed for the death of Jesus, would convert from their blindness and hardness of heart. While such a prayer has never been in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, it is a legacy to which we are accountable, given that it at times inspired violence against Jews. In our own time, Christian churches have begun to repair  their relationship with the Jewish people, including offering prayers on Good Friday that affirm God’s relationship with the Jewish people. This new collect grounds God’s redemptive work as beginning with the Jewish people from whom Jesus Christ was born. This collect states that God’s covenant with the Jewish people has never been broken and prays for their continued flourishing and safety as witnesses to God. This collect concludes with an acknowledgment of Christian harm done to the Jewish people and envisions a new life where Jews and Christians walk together in the life of God for the sake of the world. 


As we gather and hear the sacred story once again, may we tune our ears and our hearts to God’s healing Word. May we enter together into Easter Joy, trusting in God’s promise to all.


Peace and blessings, 

Nancy+

__________

 (1)Leighton, Christopher A Sacred Argument, Wipf and Stock, Eugene OR 2024


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